School as Punishment or Puzzle
Week one of my residency in Geneva is done, but I still have thoughts from the first day rattling through my head. Despite my instructor’s best efforts to reduce our brains to pulp with some intense Rails instruction, I can’t stop thinking about something discussed last Monday.
We were introduced to the simplest understanding of game theory and it’s applications to education. The first slide was just one of many definitions of a game; “a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles, in which the outcome is uncertain at the outset, is a
game.” This makes sense to me. I play games with a large portion of my free time, and like any other addiction hobby, the unnecessary obstacles are what makes games so intriquing to me. Whether it’s a simple jump to make, or a complicated logic puzzle, I enjoy the false sense of pride that I earn when I cane figure out a puzzle or challenge in a video game. I often make the analogy to teaching and learning. We as teachers are asked to place unnecessary obstacles in the way of our students everyday, a sentiment that was reinforced by my professors.
The real fun came at the last slide which gave a basic definition for punishment; involuntary attempts to overcome unnecessary obstacles. Something that teachers do everyday without perhaps even a second thought. Not that our curriculum or projects are based around creating punishing opportunities for our students, but in the act of our everyday management of classrooms and/or immediate learning goals, we often find ourselves resorting to punishing forms of education. Which of course, is entirely discouraging to me. Especially when it seems that turning education into a game, or a puzzle would be so much more rewarding, both for myself and my students.
The reality of the situation is that given the time frame I have with my students (45 minutes at a time), it can often be easy to lose sight of the forest for all the “trees” of immediacy. Obviously, I don’t want to create punishing opportunities for my students, despite the small number of learners that actually enjoy having unnecessary obstacles and tasks thrown in their direction. My professors believe that instruction should be puzzle and game centric. More specifically, education should be focused on simulation and emulation of real world scenarios.
In retrospect, this isn’t a very earth-shattering post, just a reflection of some of my thoughts this past week. Would I love to be crafty enough, possess enough raw energy, and have enough free time to create wonderfully engaging puzzles and projects with which to educate my students? SURE! Is it going to happen overnight? Nope, but I’ll give it a good try this fall.